I don’t read biographies all that often, but this one caught my eye, and I’m so glad that I read it. Once a Girl, Always a Boy follows Jeremy Ivester, a trans man who was born as Emily. We follow his journey as he struggles with his identity, knowing all along that something is not quite right with the way he perceives himself.
What’s compelling about this book, however, is that it’s written by his mother, and the author represents the entire family via multiple points of view. In this way, it’s not just Jeremy’s journey we’re reading about but that of his entire family. There is such a strong sense of love and family throughout the book which rendered it all the more endearing.
The story is told in short, vignettes of Jeremy’s life presented chronologically by him and his loving family. We follow along with Jeremey at each stage of his journey, and I loved being privy to his thoughts, feelings, and questions as he struggled to discover his identity and deal with the enormous repercussions of all of his decisions.
Additionally, the everyday gender issues that Jeremy had to deal with were quite eye-opening, things such as sleepovers with his friends, shopping for clothes, getting hair cuts, standing up at weddings, puberty, presenting your ID when asked, prescriptions, passports, which bathroom to use, discrimination and prejudice by others, getting a job, and hateful legislation aimed at trans people. My heart went out to Jeremy as he tried to figure out how he fits into his world, and I applaud his bravery and tenacity as he made many tough decisions, remaining true to his heart in the process.
As a reader, I loved that Jeremy and his mom shared his entire story with us, beginning from around the age of six or so through his adulthood in his 20s. I loved hearing his voice and being privy to his thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, and dreams every step along the way. What was also interesting was his family’s own journey, as they tried to understand and support him and work through their confusion about what their son was going through.
This book is ultimately about the power of saying – and living – your truth, without fear. It’s not just a story about being trans, but it’s also about discovering one’s true self in the face of the expectations of society and family.
It’s a powerful and compelling story that needed to be told and needs to be read and talked about. This was a surprising read that took me places I very much didn’t expect. It’s the kind of book that makes us think about who we are and how we want to live our lives, and I don’t think I’ve ever read such an intimate and moving portrayal of gender issues like this before. It actually moved me to tears in several places.
Once a Girl, Always a Boy succeeds in doing what you hope every book will do – it pulls you in from the first page, holds you captive in the middle, then leave you satisfied and thoughtful — and perhaps a bit wiser — at the end.
What I especially found riveting about Jeremy’s story is how he was able to discover his true self and move to his place in his life where he was happy, all with his family’s love and support. It was evident how having a loving and supportive family like Jeremy’s made all the difference in his life, and it hurts my heart to realize that not all trans people are so fortunate.
Ultimately, I feel that Jeremy’s story should be a welcome addition to everyone’s bookshelves, regardless of whether you fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ Spectrum or not. This is a lovely story about a family accepting their son’s transition and illustrates perfectly how we should all be supporting our children and loved ones. At the end of the day, it’s a story of being human. It’s about unconditionally loving our kids, regardless of how challenging and painful that move toward acceptance can be.
I always find it difficult to rate biographies because, after all, what we have is a true story/snippet of someone’s life. But I don’t hesitate in the least to rate this one five solid stars out of five.
A huge thank you to Netgalley and Jo Ivester for providing me with a review copy of this book. This title will be released on April 21, 2020 but you can preorder it from The Book Depository or from Amazon.